Photo Credit /Universal Pictures
Film Distribution / Universal Pictures
Runtime 109 minutes.
This is a fable about a dog’s constant reincarnation. It starts out on a Michigan farm where the dog, Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad), lives with Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and his wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger). They are taking care of their widowed daughter-in-law, Gloria (Betty Gilpin), and their granddaughter CJ (young, Abby Ryder Fortson; grown up Kathryn Prescott).
Gloria has identity issues and is selfish and resentful so takes CJ to the city to live with her as she pursues a self-centered life to the exclusion of CJ. The only part of the movie that was hard to take is how offensively drawn Gloria’s character is. She makes Cinderella’s wicked stepmother look positively saintly. But, then again, this is a fantasy, so realism wasn’t too important.
When Bailey dies, he makes a promise to Ethan that he will find and protect CJ wherever she is.
Thus occur some mind-boggling coincidences that allow Bailey’s reincarnations to find CJ in her various locales throughout the country.
The dogs are all of different breeds and sexes. In order, they are:
Bailey, a Great Pyrenees Bernese Mountain Dog
Molly, a Beaglier
Max, a Yorkshire Terrier
Big dog, an English Mastiff
Ms. Thing, a Hairless Chinese Crested
They are all engaging except the last one which is basically annoying, although not so intended.
Be warned that while Quaid and Helgenberger are listed as stars they are in the movie for only a few scenes, little more than cameos. CJ has a couple of relationships, one with Shane (Jake Manley) that is disastrous and another that lingers throughout the movie with Trent (Henry Lau).
The acting is very good, especially Gilpin and Manley, who make extremely unlikable characters believable. Prescott and Lau also give fine performances and actually create the chemistry needed for their characters’ relationship.
Directed by Gail Mancuso and written by W. Bruce Cameron ( based on his best-selling novel) & Cathryn Michon and Marya Forbes & Wally Wolodarsky (maybe they needed one writer per dog), this tale is based upon a story Cameron created when he was consoling his future wife, Minchon, on a car trip after she lost her beloved dog. He created this story on the spot and it took him 90 minutes to tell it. Afterwards she encouraged him to write it as a book because she thought it would help people as it helped her. The result was a series of best-selling books.
This is the second movie about dogs to come out this year by Cameron and Minchon, following the disappointing A Dog’s Way Home. Fortunately, this one is better.